Get Off The Sticks: The Top 7 Most Competitive Video Games Of All-Time

When did I realize video games were the equal opportunity platform for rabid competitiveness?

The year was 1983, and I was beaming with pride as my mother walked through the door with a trophy for playing video games. The words, written in glitter on a piece of pink construction paper, read Congratulations to the Ms. Pac-Man Champion of Billy Ds Lounge.  My mother worked part-time at the Central Jersey watering hole during the day shift, so she had plenty of time to work on her craft.  Affixed to the cardboard placard with tape and glue was a one-dollar bill. 

However, Mom Dukes walked away with a crisp 50-dollar bill from the competition.  As a ten-year-old boy, my video game talents were used on the likes of Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and the occasional game of pinball. As is the case with most human undertakings that rely on a particular skill, video game skills oftentimes are in all other corridors of society, stoke the competitive fires that burn deep within the hearts of all who dare touch the sticks.

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 For Ms. Pac-Man, hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes were paramount. Indeed, today there are multiple scientific studies that allude to video games ability to help craft the human mind in a positive manner. Today, as machines that once would have been considered supercomputers power some of the most advanced graphics of all time, these competitive fires burn globally.   

Video games have been blamed for a great deal of tumult in the world today, and unjustly so.  The problems that are being blamed on video games were once blamed on music, television, sex, drugs and rock and roll. So, the oftentimes ludicrous musings of moral decay and malaise attached to video game players are just another in a long line of Calvinist overtures that society uses to absolve itself of doing anything substantive about its problems.

A study mentioned in a 2015 article published in The Atlantic titled “Why We Compete” the tendency for humans to compete against their peers.

People also suffer from a phenomenon known as last-place aversion. Although players in an economics game tended to give money to those with fewer assets, this tendency waned when a player was ranked second-to-last. The researchers who ran the game also found that in real life.

Because humans are competitive by nature, video games provide a relatively safe outlet to compete against individuals the world over. Physical attributes like athleticism, size, gender, and race are rendered moot in this realm. Additionally, as is the case in the real world, like-minded individuals tend to link up and form communities based on the competitive release of their choice.  

Recently, Twitch was set ablaze when Drake, Travis Scott, Juju Smith-Schuster and other celebrity players posted a live stream their Fortnite battles on social media.  That got us thinking about some of the most competitive online and multiplayer video games of all time, and there are dozens! Because of that, we had to skim it down to seven. So, sit back, relax and enjoy, or spit out your coffee in disgust as you type up a berating email in response. Either way, here it comes! Top 7
Most Competitive Video Games of All-Time.  

Ms. Pac-Man

Last 4 levels of Ms. Pacman

Some half-assed Ms pacman play, from a save state in MAME 0.90u1 four levels from the end of the game. (Levels 138-141). Half inprov – half pattern. I have a more consistent pattern, but tend to try new things as seen here partly out of boredom, and partly because it’s been a while and I’ve forgotten how to do this more consistently.

For my first selection, its time to take it all the way back like Trapper Keepers and rusty metal lunch boxes. Thats right, the one and only Ms. Pac-Man start off our list of honor.  This, the only Golden Age selection on our list, was produced by Midway Manufacturing way back in 1982.  To my memory, Ms. Pac-Man was the first video game with a female protagonist and was initially considered something of a Pac-Man knockoff. However, game truly does recognize game. To that end, Pac-Man creator Namco would make it an official title by the close the decade.  Its still one of the most successful arcade games of all-time.  Not a head-to-head game, but I can recall crowds of up to ten people crowded around the game cabinet, quarters on deck, to take down the high score.

Tecmo Bowl 91:

Tecmo Bowl – NES Gameplay

Pure gameplay.

Though the Madden franchise is definitely in a class by itself, none of its award-winning contributions to video gaming would have been possible if it were not for the wild popularity of Tecmo Bowl 91 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The gameplay was state of the art for its time. Released in 1989, I can recall some of my friends foregoing Christmas presents so that they could cop this game.   Some of those very same friends are estranged from family members over who got to be player one. Which was tantamount to Who Gets Bo Jackson?  The Raiders running back was considered something of a cheat code before the term even existed. 

The Halo series:

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While other games were looking to make battles ultra-realistic, X-Box went with an idea that had infinite possibilities.  Starting with Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001, the Halo series has 13 titles that continually broaden the mythos and battlefield of the original Halo series.  The game is considered one of the best first-person shooters off all-time and still is one of X-Boxs most popular titles to date.  But what Halo did for competitive and cooperative online gameplay makes it legendary.  The Halo Championship Series, owned and operated by 343 Industries and governed by the Electronic Sports League, is one of the most popular leagues in gaming with a total prize pool of $2.5 million. 

The NBA2K series

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Though there have been a plethora of two-player video games that have captured our imagination over the years, the NBA 2K franchise allows the players to become totally immersed in a world of basketball; from sneakers and shorts to headbands and signature moves culled from some of our favorite NBA superstars.  Of all the 2K games, including the current all-inclusive experience offered by NBA2K18, NBA2K11 is still seen as the best of 2K offerings.  What each offered via its online components is the ability to dominate and demoralize competition opponents so bad their parents feel it. Trash talking is a natural part of basketball, and people sure did talk a lot of smack throughout all of the 2Ks dating back to 1999.  NBA 2K offers an expansive gaming experience that dwarfs all others. That basically means theres more than one way to embarrass your friends in 2K than in another basketball simulator like NBA Live, for example.

The Street Fighter series:

Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition – Cinematic Opening

Behold, the cinematic opening for Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, featuring all six characters of Season 3. Fan favorites Sakura, Blanka, Cody, and Sagat are next to join the fight along with newcomers Falke and G. Sakura will be available when Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition launches on January 16, 2018.

Created by Takashi Nishiyama and Hiroshi Matsumoto for Capcom, the first Street Fighter game released in 1989, the Street Fighter video game franchise leaped to the front of early martial arts fighting games, many of which were side-scrolling offerings such as Kung Fu Master and the first Shinobi offering. Street Fighter II was the very first of such games in which players competed against fighters with distinctly different styles and representing other cultureswhich was copied by Tekken and other titles. It is also one of the highest grossing video games of all time. But all those numbers have nothing to do with the visceral feeling of joy and elation when you finally figured out how to defeat M. Bison in two minutes. Chun-Li is an equal opportunity asskicker!


GoldenEye 007 – N64 Gameplay

GoldenEye 007. Captured from an actual N64 console and cartridge. For more information on this title, please visit:

GoldenEye still goes down as one of the best first-person shooters of all-time, and its also the very first console game in which up to four players could compete against one another in a heated virtual combat that saw friendships torn asunder, albeit temporarily in most cases.  The game, based on the 1995 film of the same name, was released in 1997.  The game sold over eight million copies for the Nintendo 64 console. In fact, some of my buddies purchased the console for the solely for playing GoldenEye.  In many circles, GoldenEye is considered the best video game of all-time.


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Do we really need to say why? Madden speaks for itself. Great graphics, smooth gameplay, total player control, playbooks that are specific to each teams roster and style on both sides of the ball, the Madden franchise represents the gold standard of competitive video game play. You dont even have to know a thing about football, Madden will have you up to speed and talkin smack in no time, flat.

Honorable Mention: Mario Kart series, Mortal Kombat series, the Tekken series, Call to Duty series (It’s here only because I generally don’t like realistic battlefield games. However, I have to respect the cutting edge gameplay, expansiveness, and outstanding graphics), Gundam Versus (which I’m currently playing), and World of Tanks (a downloadable, free first-person shooter available on smartphones, laptops, tablets and desktops that allows players to compete globally).

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